Update: Use this as the open thread for the game tonight. See you guys on the flip side. Go Hokies! --Joe
Tonight's game against Miami will likely decide the ACC Coastal. In the ACC era, Tech's been a terrific road team. Coming into the season the Hokies held the record for consecutive true road games won (juking the stats a bit, but still impressive). However, this season they haven't won a game away from Lane.
I traveled to Pitt and Cincinnati. Both stadiums were missing something. People for sure, but also that familiar but indescribable ambience swirling around a college football game. Something like a cocktail of noise, sweat, and excitement splashed on your face as soon as you look down at the field from your seat. Either way, good teams are able to focus solely on taking care of business. Tech couldn't at the beginning of the year, can they do so tonight in another poorly attended college game shoehorned into a pro stadium?
Similar to Tech, Miami's offense has been up and down all season.
Their four best offensive games were against Boston College, NC State, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina who ranked 111th, 76th, 73rd, 48th in total defense respectively. They were swallowed up by Florida State (2nd), Notre Dame (11th), and Kansas State (30th).
In the second-half of the season, Miami's offense hasn't been explosive.
[Stephen] Morris' longest completion since his seven-touchdown, 1,002-yard two-game stretch that featured nine pass plays of 40 yards or more? A 32-yard garbage time completion to Davon Johnson late in the fourth quarter versus Florida State, which preceded Morris' only TD pass in his last three games (an eight-yarder to Rashawn Scott).
The other big pass plays? A 28-yard dump and run by tight end Clive Walford versus Notre Dame; a 26-yard dump and run by Duke Johnson in the same game; and a 24-yard dump and run by Mike James versus FSU.
Of Miami's 21 offensive plays that have gone more than 25+ yards, just 5 came against FSU, ND, and K-State.
Other than the outlier performances against Georgia Tech and NC State, Morris' highest passing total to date is 223 yards against FSU. However, he has been victimized by drops.
According to ESPN, UM went into last week's game against the Seminoles with 23 drops -- the second most by any school from a BCS automatic qualifying conference this season.
Miami will dink and dunk, but they do like to take their shots down the field. If UM's receivers can beat Tech's man coverage Morris is good enough to make the throws.
True freshman Duke Johnson is Miami's big playmaker. He's a three-way threat and ranks 28th nationally in all-purpose yards (137.88). Tech's struggled this season containing dynamic tailbacks. Johnson is battling turf toe and sprained his right ankle against FSU, but will play tonight. However, expect redshirt freshman Dallas Crawford to get some touches.
"You know, people don't think he's that big or he's just a quick guy, but he's really physical," [left guard Jon] Feliciano said. "He likes to get hit and like to hit."
Golden was mum on what Crawford's role would be, except that he would probably figure into the game plan. Look for him to be a between the tackles presence for Miami.
Defensively, it'll again be up to Tech's d-line to lead the charge.
The pass rush has come around the last two weeks. The Hokies had 10 sacks against Duke and Clemson after getting only eight the first six games. Getting Maddy healthy at tackle has helped. He's given them a push up the middle that was lacking. Maddy mentioned that Tech's line is doing more work on pass-rushing moves at practice, even during scout-team drills that are usually at less than full speed. "I know we're working hard at our accountability in practice, our effort at practice and our practice habits," Wiles said. "And I think it's carrying over to the game. We're practicing like we're trying to play."
Also note, Corey Marshall has surpassed J.R. Collins at end.
Miami's defense this season is terrible. Players washing out of the program, and jumping prematurely to the NFL has left the Canes young and inexperienced. From Miami's media guide, "In the first 20 games of the Al Golden era, Miami has used 18 different defensive starting lineups."
An under the radar guy to keep an eye on is defensive linemen Corey King. Golden praised him for how he practiced in ones vs. ones work.
We've written extensively this season about Tech's inconsistent offense, and how many of the problems won't be able to be solved until after the season. However, Miami's rush defense is ranked 119th nationally. If the Hokies can establish the run, I'm confident the rest of the offense will open up. After an extra few days to rest, Logan should be a bigger part of the ground attack.
Farris was listed as probable in the injury report, so look for him to start at center, and Via, Benedict, and Lil' Wang to rotate at the guard spots. Via struggled snapping against Clemson, so that's one less complication for an offense with many issues.
Beamer Co. promoting the number two receivers, Corey Fuller and Demetri Knowles, to co-starters at split-end and flanker, respectively, was long overdue. More slants to Fuller, deep balls to Knowles, and less screens that stop before they start.
This game isn't nationally relevant in the slightest, but the winner can book hotels for Charlotte. That should mean something to both teams. I know it will to Miami. Golden had them fired up and humming in Lane last season, and I don't expect anything less than their best game this time around.
I blindly trust Beamer Co.'s almost spotless ACC era 27-2 November record, and I believe it can convey there's plenty left to play for. So, let's hope we cant take Miami's best shot and hit them right back.